Gloucester Mayor Cindy Rau-Hatton helps a
citizen during the township’s extended business day
Local governments across our nation are altering their work schedules to save money, energy and resources. Here in New Jersey, mayors are facing monumental challenges due to drastic reductions in state aid, unfunded state mandates, and the additional financial pressures of rising fuel and energy costs as well as the declining state of the economy.
With all of these unprecedented financial pressures at the local government level, mayors must find new, creative ways to “do more with less” while continuing to provide residents with the services they expect and deserve. We are at the bottom of the food chain; there’s no one else to whom we can pass these costs.
A recent Brigham Young University study estimates that one-sixth of cities with populations about 25,000 have opted for an extended four-day work week. After careful consideration, Gloucester Township has chosen this path.
As mayor of a 24.5 square mile municipality, with a population of 68,000 residents and still growing, the drastic cut in state aid is having a deleterious effect on our ability to provide current services. Previous to our four-day work week, Gloucester Township offered a five-day (10-hour day) flexible schedule. Employees either worked Monday through Thursday or Tuesday through Friday. Often, this left shortages in staffing on Monday and Friday. Compounding the problem was a 10 percent to 15 percent reduction in our workforce. Thus, working around employees’ vacation and personal time schedules seriously hampered adequate staffing.
After analyzing each department, we concluded that a four-day (10 hour workday) schedule consolidated and maximized our workforce. This schedule provided adequate coverage, continuity and cohesion within the departments, saved on overtime costs, and better served the needs of our residents. Fridays had always been our least busy public day and our residents have been receptive to our new four-day week. The extended hours of 8:00 a.m. to 5:45 p.m. allow our residents to conduct municipal business before or after their own work hours. The only department not affected by the new work schedule is the police department, who continue to effectively operate 24-7.
In addition to adequate staffing, the new four-day work week provides energy savings. By shutting down buildings on Fridays, we anticipate a 15 to 20 percent reduction in utility bills, resulting in a savings of approximately $35,000. With the major impact of a 26 percent increase in gas costs as well as an 80 percent increase in diesel fuel costs, Gloucester Township faces a $250,000 fuel cost increase. Every effort must be made to minimize this impact.
Gloucester Township’s new work schedule was implemented on June 30, 2008, with positive results. As mayors face these difficult financial times, we all need to find ways to be energy efficient and improve services. The four-day, 10 hours a day, work week appears to be working well in Gloucester Township